An Interview with Maritere Rodriguez Bellas, An Immigrant, Dual Language Parent, & Acclaimed Author
What do you think are the challenges that specifically affect bilingual parents?
First, I would have to say the lack of information about its' benefits and advantages. For many years bilingualism stopped being a topic of conversation and parents were concerned with assimilation and adjustment to the new language. In many homes, Spanish was not encouraged. Today, there are many studies that prove the opposite. We are all born with a bilingual brain, even multilingual, and we now believe the advantages. Even monolingual parents now are rushing to sign up their kids in dual language schools! The second challenge is commitment. It is not easy to make that decision and stay committed. It is a struggle and it's different in every home. Some homes have two parents speaking the same language. In others, parents speak two different languages or are monolingual. Staying true to one's language while raising a child in a home where mom speaks Spanish and dad speaks English is hard. Staying true to speaking only Spanish at home when the kid goes out the door and speaks only English is hard too.
What tips would you give to parents who are struggling with implementing both languages at home?
Make a plan even before the baby is born and stick to the plan. It has to be a decision made by both parents and they have to involve everyone in the child's life: family, neighbors, friends, extended family, teachers. It takes a village, honestly! And it needs to start right at the beginning, even before the baby is born or the baby is little. That way, they grow up with the understanding that his parents' goals are for him to acquire fluency in both languages. There will be struggles, especially when the child starts school, but, if he is exposed to all of it since he is very young, he will tend not to see it as "I am different."
What do you think are the benefits of dual language education?
Innumerable! From cognitive benefits that include the way one learns, to the way we remember, to the linguistics approach. Academically, the higher grades, and later on in life, a child who is bilingual becomes a bilingual employee that is an asset to any company and earns higher wages.
Continue reading to find out how Maritere balances parenting, writing and a dedication to being bilingual...